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Serotonin Levels Determine Sense of Fairness
Date:6/5/2008

said. "On some days of the study, they took either a pill with all amino acids or a placebo. On the experiment day, they took a pill with all the amino acids but tryptophan. Over the course of several hours, that would have been converted to serotonin."

Knowledge about the role of serotonin in the emotions already is being put to use, sometimes legally and sometimes not, said research team member Matthew D. Lieberman, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Prescription medications such as antidepressants are known to affect serotonin levels, and the same is true of MDMA, the psychedelic drug whose street name is Ecstasy, Lieberman said. It is, he said, "a quick serotonin enhancer."

One everyday implication of the study is that brain chemistry "is going to affect how we judge other people and are treated by other people," Lieberman said.

A proposed experiment would have people play the Ultimate Game inside a magnetic resonance imaging machine that would produce images of brain activity, Lieberman said. "We could see, as we change serotonin levels, how the brain responds in an imaging study to fair and unfair offers," he said.

More information

Learn how antidepressant drugs act on serotonin from the Mayo Clinic.



SOURCES: Molly J. Crockett, doctoral student, University of Cambridge, England; Matthew D. Lieberman, Ph.D., associate professor, psychology, University of California, Los Angeles; June 5, 2008, Science


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